Derrick Rose reacts after tearing his ACL while driving to the hoop

Athletes and the ACL epidemic

Injuries aren't the death sentence they once were

Tom Brady, Derrick Rose, Mariano Rivera, Adrian Peterson and Evgeni Malkin all have something in common.

Aside from the fact each of these men have dominated their respective sport, they have all went through a potentially career-threatening injury.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located inside the knee joint connecting the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). The main purpose of the ACL is to prevent the shinbone from sliding in front of the knee while a person runs and cuts.

Years ago, an ACL injury likely meant the end for athletes, but with recent advancements in science and medicine, athletes can now come back quicker and stronger than ever before.

The ACL tears more than any other ligament in the body, resulting in over 200,000 injuries per year in North America, according to a study done by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. It can happen to anyone who plays any type of sport, believe me.

I tore my ACL this past summer playing ball hockey and am currently in the midst of a rigorous rehabilitation process. Since then, anytime an athlete hurts their knee, my attention is immediately drawn to the situation.

In the past two weeks, Brian Cushing and Darrelle Revis, two elite defensive players in the National Football League both tore their ACL’s.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan boldly claimed that Revis would be ready in time for the Super Bowl – highly unlikely since most recoveries take closer to a full calendar year.

In 2008, Brady tore his ACL eight minutes into the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady missed the entire season, but rebounded in 2009, throwing for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned to action just eight months after tearing his ACL last season. Eight months! That is unheard of, even for Peterson, who is a physically gifted specimen.

Many pundits doubted whether Peterson could be effective so soon after having the surgery, but the former rushing leader silenced his critics in Week 1, gaining 84 yards and two scores against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Peterson’s resurgence is remarkable, and gives hope to the likes of Cushing, Rivera and Rose.

Rose, who recently came to tears at a shoe release after watching footage of his injury for the first time, is expected to return this season. His coach Tom Thibodeau seemed confident when asked about his star’s rehabilitation.

“I expect him to come back and fully recover and be better than ever.” Thibodeau said to reporters after Chicago’s first pre-season game.

What once was considered a death sentence for professional athletes is now a mere bump in the road.

The rehab is relentless, but these athletes are being handled by the best of the best, and receiving cutting-edge medicines in hopes to return sooner than previously imaginable.